Based solely on the title and the fact that this movie is set during World War II (set and released), I decided that it must be about a Rosie-the-Riveter type of woman who worked in a factory in support of the war. I thought, Oh, cool, my grandma did a Rosie-the-Riveter job during the war. Which then prompted an evening-long venture through Google genealogy to research my family history, and which I’ll be happy to delineate in careful detail now.
Oh, wait. Movie. That’s right. Well, anyway, though Mrs. Miniver is a war movie, it is unfortunately not about Rosie the Riveter. It’s not even set in the United States. The film was actually created to encourage Americans to support the Allied effort (even the end credits implore you to buy bonds!).
The title Miniver is your typical upper middle class lady who likes shopping and buys overly expensive hats (women, amiright?), which turns out to be okay because her Don Draper-esque husband just blew some cash on a new car. Somehow, Mrs. Miniver ends up admitting she’s wrong about something while her husband calls her fat, and then they go to bed in neighboring twin beds. Then the war starts.
You might wonder why a war movie is named after a woman. Here’s the twist: by the middle of the picture, there are actually two Mrs. Minivers. The elder Mrs. M’s son, Vin, meets the daughter of the local baroness, and despite the fact that Vin introduces himself by man-splaining something about social consciousness, they fall in love. In a weird side plot, the baroness hosts a flower competition in the village, except that nobody has ever attempted to compete against her… until now!
How might the Bechdel test have fared in a movie from 1942, even one that apparently focuses on the life of a woman? Not well, as a matter of fact. I’ve interpreted the Test to mean that two women characters must be in a scene alone to qualify, and it’s a good hour into the film before we even see the two women alone together. Instead of dialogue, they sit gaping in shock at something war-ish. I don’t think that counts. Later on, after Vin enlists in the air force, the ladies Miniver end up discussing at length how much it will suck if Vin dies in combat, but that, at the end of the day, they’ll figure out how to move past it. I won’t ruin the ending.
The moral of this movie, if you could say such a thing, is that war – and particularly this war – affects the lives of everyone, including the women who wait at home for their loved ones to return safely. It’s not an especially novel message, but an affecting one nonetheless. While watching, I found myself marveling at the very idea of making a movie about the war while it was going on, without knowing what its result might be. Especially in 1942, when the U.S. had just barely got into the game, and everything seemed to be running in Germany’s favor. For some reason, World War II remains in many ways the favorite war to depict on film. I wonder whether and how the war will carry on in our memories long after our grandparents and their own memories have faded into history.
Theme: Ladies in Film
Bechdel Test: Total failure
First Time Watching? Yes
Final Verdict: Gentlemen don’t propose when they’re eating.